A small change in the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid has made some low-income college students and their families appear rich, potentially preventing them from receiving financial aid.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the field for applicants to report income was expanded on the application this year to allow for higher-income earners to apply. But many users missed instructions saying they shouldn’t enter the cents in the text field asking for income information. The effect, as described by the Chronicle, is that “an income of $22,852.19, for example, is converted into $2,285,219.”
The Department of Education estimates that 165,000 people have made that mistake. And if it went uncaught, students from low-income families might have missed out on grants and aid they might have otherwise received.
The department says applications are being reviewed. In the event of mistakes colleges will notify students who are in need (and are not, in fact, millionaires) of their financial assistance.
All in all, the issue makes for a fine reminder that you should read carefully when filling out a form. Especially one that could be worth thousands of dollars.